The Independent: Iran has rejected the United Nations’ demands for the country to suspend its uranium enrichment before a deadline set for today, ensuring a further escalation of diplomatic tension with the West over its contested nuclear programme. The Independent
By David Usborne in New York
Iran has rejected the United Nations’ demands for the country to suspend its uranium enrichment before a deadline set for today, ensuring a further escalation of diplomatic tension with the West over its contested nuclear programme.
Speaking on the eve of the deadline at a rally in northern Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President, said Iran was willing to enter fresh talks on its nuclear activities. He added, however, that Iran would suspend enrichment of uranium only if its negotiating partners in the West took the same step.
“That… we shut down our nuclear fuel cycle programme to let talks begin. It’s no problem. But justice demands that those who want to hold talks with us shut down their nuclear fuel cycle program too. Then, we can hold dialogue under a fair atmosphere,” he said.
“Do you believe that’s a serious offer?” responded Tony Snow, the White House spokesman.
On 23 December, the UN Security Council imposed limited sanctions on Iran and gave it 60 days to end its enrichment or face further punitive measures. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is expected to say in a report today that Iran has failed to comply.
Dr ElBaradei warned this week that Iran was only six months away from achieving enrichment on an industrial scale at its facility in Natanz. He added that British and US intelligence experts say the country remains five to 10 years from being able to produce a nuclear bomb, and diplomatic efforts should continue.
The Security Council is unlikely to move quickly towards the imposition of a second round of sanctions because of reticence on the part of China and Russia. Its members may try, however, warn Iran of further action if it does not stop.
Russia, however, has said that it has frozen assistance in constructing a nuclear energy plant in the city of Bushehr saying it had fallen behind on an agreed schedule of payments. Iranian officials denied the claim.